‘Stop shaving dogs’ – War of the Encyclopaedists by Christopher Robinson & Gavin Kovite

woteThere is a thing that American novels do that the average British reader finds odd: they put the words ‘a novel’ on the front page. I used to wonder why they did this. I don’t anymore. It’s just a way of avoiding law suits. What you do is, you write a memoir and then just put ‘a novel’ on the cover and hey presto, you’re a novelist, a litigation free zone.

What I still don’t understand is why not just write a memoir? I mean, why not just face facts? You are American, sooner or later someone is going to sue you. Why not just run with it? Sue them back. Countersue their ass off. More importantly, stop pretending you are a novelist when you can’t even be bothered to complete the first basic stage of writing fiction which is making something up.

That is your job you know, making things up. That is why we call it fiction. Because it is mostly things that didn’t actually happen. When we write books that are mostly things that did happen we call that non-fiction and we don’t put ‘a novel’ on the cover. Do your job novelists. Make things up.

You wouldn’t catch a baker putting some shoes in a box and writing ‘a cake’ on the lid. They don’t do that. Because it would be bullshit. Theme parks don’t write ‘a rollercoaster’ on the doors of a portaloo and hope you won’t notice. Zoos don’t just buy loads of dogs and write the names of more interesting animals on them, then swan around giving you educational talks about the precarious position of the natural habitats of hippos, even though you aren’t looking at a hippo, you are looking at a Dalmatian / Highland Terrier cross with its side shaved and the words ‘a hippo’ scrawled on its flank. We wouldn’t accept that, would we? We would demand our money back. If we want to look at shaved dogs we’ll buy some dogs and shave them ourselves. Dogs are cheap. They sell razors in Poundland.

As consumers we demand actual hippos.

And so we come to War of the Encyclopaedists, ‘a novel’. The biographies of the two authors spell out, explicitly, how close they are to the main characters (they may as well have printed the blurb twice) and while their life stories are jazzed up a bit with some fake Wikipedia pages, essentially you are looking at 400 pages of two hipsters in their twenties falling in love with a girl who is a bit quirky in a Scott Pilgrim ‘don’t bother writing a rounded female character just give her blue hair and that’ll probably do’ kind of way.

And I hate this. I hate writing bad reviews. I do. I want to like books and be nice about them and be friends with everyone. But Jesus. Stop shaving dogs. Make something up.

Any Cop?: No: ‘a yes’.


Benjamin Judge



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